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How Not to Be Wrong: The Art of Changing Your Mind

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'Simply Brilliant' THE SECRET BARRISTER 'Passionate and brilliantly argued' DAVID OLUSOGA 'An admirably personal guide' MARINA HYDE 'Smart, analytical, self-aware and important' ALASTAIR CAMPBELL THE INTIMATE, REVEALING NEW BOOK FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLING, PRIZE-WINNING HOW TO BE RIGHT There's no point having a mind if you're not willing to change it James O'Brien has 'Simply Brilliant' THE SECRET BARRISTER 'Passionate and brilliantly argued' DAVID OLUSOGA 'An admirably personal guide' MARINA HYDE 'Smart, analytical, self-aware and important' ALASTAIR CAMPBELL THE INTIMATE, REVEALING NEW BOOK FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLING, PRIZE-WINNING HOW TO BE RIGHT There's no point having a mind if you're not willing to change it James O'Brien has built well over a million loyal listeners to his radio show by dissecting the opinions of callers live on air, every day. But winning the argument doesn't necessarily mean you're right. In this deeply personal book, James turns the mirror on himself to reveal what he has changed his mind about and why, and explores how examining and changing our own views is our new civic duty in a world of outrage, disagreement and echo chambers. He writes candidly about the stiff upper lip attitudes and toxic masculinity that coloured his childhood, and the therapy and personal growth that have led him question his assumptions and explore new perspectives. Laying open his personal views on everything from racial prejudice to emotional vulnerability, from fat-shaming to tattoos, he then delves into the real reasons -- often irrational or unconscious -- he holds them. Unflinchingly honest, revealing and funny, How Not to Be Wrong is a tonic for a world more divided than ever and a personal manifesto for a better way of thinking and living. Because after all, if we can't change our own minds we'll never really be able to change anyone else's.


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'Simply Brilliant' THE SECRET BARRISTER 'Passionate and brilliantly argued' DAVID OLUSOGA 'An admirably personal guide' MARINA HYDE 'Smart, analytical, self-aware and important' ALASTAIR CAMPBELL THE INTIMATE, REVEALING NEW BOOK FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLING, PRIZE-WINNING HOW TO BE RIGHT There's no point having a mind if you're not willing to change it James O'Brien has 'Simply Brilliant' THE SECRET BARRISTER 'Passionate and brilliantly argued' DAVID OLUSOGA 'An admirably personal guide' MARINA HYDE 'Smart, analytical, self-aware and important' ALASTAIR CAMPBELL THE INTIMATE, REVEALING NEW BOOK FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLING, PRIZE-WINNING HOW TO BE RIGHT There's no point having a mind if you're not willing to change it James O'Brien has built well over a million loyal listeners to his radio show by dissecting the opinions of callers live on air, every day. But winning the argument doesn't necessarily mean you're right. In this deeply personal book, James turns the mirror on himself to reveal what he has changed his mind about and why, and explores how examining and changing our own views is our new civic duty in a world of outrage, disagreement and echo chambers. He writes candidly about the stiff upper lip attitudes and toxic masculinity that coloured his childhood, and the therapy and personal growth that have led him question his assumptions and explore new perspectives. Laying open his personal views on everything from racial prejudice to emotional vulnerability, from fat-shaming to tattoos, he then delves into the real reasons -- often irrational or unconscious -- he holds them. Unflinchingly honest, revealing and funny, How Not to Be Wrong is a tonic for a world more divided than ever and a personal manifesto for a better way of thinking and living. Because after all, if we can't change our own minds we'll never really be able to change anyone else's.

30 review for How Not to Be Wrong: The Art of Changing Your Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    In his best-selling How to Be Right, James O'Brien provided an invigorating guide to how to talk to people with bad opinions. And yet the question he always gets asked is: 'if you're so sure about everything, haven't you ever changed your mind?' In an age of us vs them, tribal loyalties and bitter divisions, the ability to change our minds may be the most important power we have. In this intimate, personal new book, James' focus shifts from talking to other people to how you talk to yourself abo In his best-selling How to Be Right, James O'Brien provided an invigorating guide to how to talk to people with bad opinions. And yet the question he always gets asked is: 'if you're so sure about everything, haven't you ever changed your mind?' In an age of us vs them, tribal loyalties and bitter divisions, the ability to change our minds may be the most important power we have. In this intimate, personal new book, James' focus shifts from talking to other people to how you talk to yourself about what you really think. Ranging across a dazzling array of big topics, cultural questions and political hot potatoes, James reveals where he has changed his mind, explains what convinced him and shows why all of us need to kick the tyres of our opinions, check our assumptions and make sure we really think what we think we do. He asks us to consider that over time as people we have unwittingly formed both conscious and unconscious bias through the opinions we are exposed to, including those of our family members, our education systems and our place in society. The types of media we consume also feeds into these biases, including television, press and social media. Coloured with stories of changing minds from the incredible guests on his podcasts and callers to his radio show, and spanning big ideas like press regulation and Brexit through to playful subjects like football and dog-ownership, How Not to Be Wrong is packed with revelations, outrage, conversations and lots of humour. Because in a world that seems more divided than ever, if you can't change your own mind you'll never really be able to change anyone else's. This is an accessible, fascinating and important read which argues that we should be more self-aware and reflective and challenge our own opinions. It's a compelling book that is written in a conversational style and you can tell it has been extensively researched. It also features some interesting anecdotes throughout and proposes that only through challenging our own thought processes can we learn to be more intuitive and come to understand that changing your mind, provided it is in an informed manner, helps us mature as people and be more open-minded in the long term. Highly recommended. Many thanks to WH Allen for an ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    I thought How Not To Be Wrong was excellent. I don’t listen to James O’Brien but I enjoyed his previous book, How To Be Right very much and tried this on the strength of it. It’s a very different book, but just as good and just as important. The message of the book is summed up in its penultimate sentence: “I have finally learned that admitting to being wrong is infinitely more important than using skills and tricks and weapons and tools to look ‘right’, and that there is no point in having a min I thought How Not To Be Wrong was excellent. I don’t listen to James O’Brien but I enjoyed his previous book, How To Be Right very much and tried this on the strength of it. It’s a very different book, but just as good and just as important. The message of the book is summed up in its penultimate sentence: “I have finally learned that admitting to being wrong is infinitely more important than using skills and tricks and weapons and tools to look ‘right’, and that there is no point in having a mind if you can’t change it.” It’s an important message; what that sentence doesn’t convey, though, is what a remarkably honest and courageous book this is. O’Brien talks openly about some of the times he has been, in his words, “horribly wrong” either about an idea or about the way in which he has treated someone. It makes quite painful reading sometimes; it must have been very difficult to write and I think he deserves great credit for what he has done. He has a lot to say about the way in which early experiences at school in particular gave him a mindset of always expecting attack and how he built a set of verbal tools to fend off attacks and to “win,” rather than to really listen to and empathise with what people with different life experiences may be saying to him. It took a major family crisis for him to realise that these tools did not make him a good father or husband in these circumstances and, again to his credit, he sought counselling even though he was mightily sceptical and cynical about the whole process. His description of how this affected him and the subsequent re-evaluation of much of how he behaves toward people is readable, fascinating and moving in places. Much of what he says applies to an awful lot of us (especially men, I would suggest) and is a salutary read. I can recommend How Not To Be Wrong as an engrossing, thoughtful and thoroughly illuminating read. One of my best books of the year so far. (My thanks to Random House, WH Allen for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    "There is no point in having a mind if you never change it." I enjoyed O'Brien's last book and was intrigued by the concept of this new writing and how he admits and accepts his wrong attitudes. The reflective and critical analysis of O'Brien's own experiences and opinions was a perfect introduction to exploring your own faults. A brilliant example of how to critically analyse your own opinions and beliefs to become a better and more understanding human being. "There is no point in having a mind if you never change it." I enjoyed O'Brien's last book and was intrigued by the concept of this new writing and how he admits and accepts his wrong attitudes. The reflective and critical analysis of O'Brien's own experiences and opinions was a perfect introduction to exploring your own faults. A brilliant example of how to critically analyse your own opinions and beliefs to become a better and more understanding human being.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Higgins

    I’m a big fan of James O’Brien I listen to him everyday on LBC and I couldn’t wait to read this book and I was not disappointed. This book is honest and heartfelt and I would definitely recommend.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jess Wylde

    I listen to James O’Brien’s political radio show on LBC almost every weekday and he is, in my opinion, one of the most sensible, reasonable and articulate people with a media platform in the UK today. I have a lot of respect for him and would recommend anyone to listen to his show. This is a book about changing your mind, and it’s also a very brave book. James analyses times in his own past when his beliefs on certain topics were a world away from what they are now, and how he came to change his m I listen to James O’Brien’s political radio show on LBC almost every weekday and he is, in my opinion, one of the most sensible, reasonable and articulate people with a media platform in the UK today. I have a lot of respect for him and would recommend anyone to listen to his show. This is a book about changing your mind, and it’s also a very brave book. James analyses times in his own past when his beliefs on certain topics were a world away from what they are now, and how he came to change his mind. Sometimes he has been helped by callers on his show and he scripts out some of the most interesting and eye opening conversations he’s had which have forced him to do a 180 on his previous views. He discusses topics such as stop & search, trans people, therapy, obesity, Black Lives Matter, vegetarianism and more. I found it an extremely brave book because how many of us would be willing to hold up our past selves, spouting what we now know to be utter nonsense, for all the world to see? Yet here is James doing exactly that, laying himself bare and saying, ‘Look everyone - look how silly I was then - and this is how I changed.’ I’ve certainly held views in the past that I am now ashamed of and the thought of doing what James has done here would absolutely terrify me, so much respect to him for that. It’s also a very hopeful book, because it shows how much we can grow if we just give ourselves the space and can open up our minds and listen. We should all be doing more of that. When I got to the end I could have happily kept on reading this and wished it was a bit longer (something I rarely say about a book). Luckily I have his radio show to go back to for my fix!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gregg

    "There's no point in having a mind if you're not going to change it," LBC broadcaster James O'Brien says at the very end of this excellent rumination on how to examine what we think and shift it when necessary. Hear hear. Being wrong is something I excel at. Twenty-plus years ago, if you'd asked (and thankfully, almost no one did), I would have adamantly declared that gays in the military would be a distraction for heterosexual soldiers, that we were evolutionarily engineered to eat meat, that i "There's no point in having a mind if you're not going to change it," LBC broadcaster James O'Brien says at the very end of this excellent rumination on how to examine what we think and shift it when necessary. Hear hear. Being wrong is something I excel at. Twenty-plus years ago, if you'd asked (and thankfully, almost no one did), I would have adamantly declared that gays in the military would be a distraction for heterosexual soldiers, that we were evolutionarily engineered to eat meat, that if we were invading any country in the Middle East it was because there were some bad people there who needed us to take care of them but good, and that glam rock was a necessary reprieve for American pop culture after the horrors of the eighties and the oncoming sludgy philosophy of grunge. I still sort of believe the last, but over the years, I've been fortunate to be challenged by a number of people close to me, and my thinking on these matters and many others has shifted. Weird how, for a guy who quotes Emerson's "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" so freely in the classroom has spent so much time yelling "No it's not!" when clearly it was over the years. This book provides a useful commentary on the process of examining one's preconceptions and prejudices, without the crushing burden of ego interfering with a more clear-eyed analysis. When have we ever needed this more? O'Brien distinguishes between "winning" an argument and having a more honest, productive exchange, and he lays out his own shortcomings over the years as an LBC broadcaster to provide evidence and context. The book has eight chapters, each of which dives into a singular issue or issues and shows transcripts of O'Brien fumbling the ball when talking to people on his program about issues he says he is "well meaning but ill informed" about. Probably I was most interested in the chapters on attitudes concerning traditional marriage because I too am susceptible to some of society's prejudices about wedded vs. nonwedded couples (though I didn't realize it until I read the book), and O'Brien's admission of his own hypocrisy concerning meat eating is one I share as well. (Like him, my diet is a "work in progress.") The one issue, I think, he is careful to point out he's not completely sold upon is transgender rights, and his admission that he holds two contradictory points of view on the subject, and therefore must be wrong somehow (he isn't sure how yet) is fascinating to look at. (It's summarized a bit in the midst of this exchange he had with Piers Morgan last October, when the book came out.) I wasn't quite so convinced about his point concerning Israel: that any criticism of the state must take into account the fact that the world's Jews look to it as "a place to go to when it (the Holocaust) happens again." Maybe it's because I haven't thought enough about it; maybe it's because most of the criticism of Israel I come across is written or spoken by practicing Jews who seem to have no trouble differentiating between anti-Semitism (which is real) and horror at Israel turning Palestine into an occupied police state. When O'Brien cautions us that, if we're spending more time criticizing Israel than we are any other country, I come off okay--for me, my primary responsibility is to hold myself and my own country responsible for my/their own atrocities--and I'm perfectly willing to discuss the issue further, calmly, quietly, without any urge to make, or tolerance to endure any yelling of thinly-veiled or not-so-thinly veiled anti-Semitic bellowing about the Soros-controlled media. Gold star, please? O'Brien is downright seductive to listen to. He is Socratic, thoughtful in the best sense, and an antidote to the poisonous bile of strident partisanship masquerading as dialogue in the media today. His being on the other side of the Atlantic only helps schlubs like me who sometimes struggle with basic geography, and he's erudite and conversational simultaneously. I maintain that his advice in his last book, How to be Right, contains the best advice possible for critical debate: get your opponent to explain what they mean. If it's sound, great; if it's not, it collapses under the weight of the facts. Here, the thesis seems to be that if you're not willing to do that to yourself, you're doing thinking wrong. Point taken.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    I've enjoyed listening toJames O'Brien on the radio, regularly dismantling other people's opinions on a wide variety of subjects. Many of his viewpoints I agree with: the one's I don't I have sometimes found myself shouting frustratedly at the radio. Either way, it's entertaining. This book follows on from his previous best seller How To Be Right, and his focus shifts from looking outward and always trying to win the argument to looking inside and discovering (partly via counselling) why he think I've enjoyed listening toJames O'Brien on the radio, regularly dismantling other people's opinions on a wide variety of subjects. Many of his viewpoints I agree with: the one's I don't I have sometimes found myself shouting frustratedly at the radio. Either way, it's entertaining. This book follows on from his previous best seller How To Be Right, and his focus shifts from looking outward and always trying to win the argument to looking inside and discovering (partly via counselling) why he thinks the way he does, what his thoughts are about the way his opinions have been formed , and whether, in light of that, they are right or wrong (or a mix of both). This book aims to encourage us to do the same: to examine the most steadfast of our opinions and ask why: to examine the other viewpoint open mindedly rather than with the intent to rubbish it; to listen to that little voice that sometimes talks inside our head; and to actively listen to other people because their personal opinions have drawn them to a different conclusion., and it's interesting and enlightening to find out why. He asks us to be aware of our unconscious biases and try to look outside our usual reading material. We all surround ourselves with friends who have similar opinions, and read media that aligns with how we think about the world. We could do better: to read other media, to see the other side of the story may lead to a better understanding of why people think differently. It may also lead you to change your own opinions at times - not a bad thing! The text is interspersed with conversations from his radio show - some to illustrate how he used to bulldoze people with his opinion, some showing how he now listens, others where changed his mind on a subject just by listening to another person's experience. He also points out that the best way to change someone else's opinion is not to talk over them, to patronise them or to verbally them; but to get them to question their own viewpoint. We all need to be open-minded enough to listen: even if ultimately we still have the same opinion as when we started, at least we understand the underpinnings of the other person's argument (or maybe that there are no underpinnings: they are arguing from feelings rather than fact and evidence.). In the last 10 years or so, in the UK at least, we have become much more tribal in our thinking - footballisation as James calls it - not just wanting our team to win, but wanting the other side to lose badly in many other ways. This will never lead to anything good - we need to learn to listen, to understand, to agree to disagree, if we want to get on better and become a united kingdom in actions rather than just a label.. A recommended read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    A very honest look at James O'Brien's personal views on a selection of topics, which he held passionately and insistantly and how he came to realise he was wrong and change his mind. There are some deeply personal, vulnerable and revealing things here, from his days at school to adult reactions to obesity and the legitamate confusion of trans issues. His recounting of his corperal punishment as a young boy at boarding school are honestly heartbreaking and it's a very interesting look at how that A very honest look at James O'Brien's personal views on a selection of topics, which he held passionately and insistantly and how he came to realise he was wrong and change his mind. There are some deeply personal, vulnerable and revealing things here, from his days at school to adult reactions to obesity and the legitamate confusion of trans issues. His recounting of his corperal punishment as a young boy at boarding school are honestly heartbreaking and it's a very interesting look at how that experience lead him to support the concept of beating children for many years, against what would be thought of as clearly rational and obvious reasons. The complexity of how we protect ourselves emotionally from trauma plays key roles which then inform our lives onwards. The same with trans issues, which I think he makes honest and important points, that from the perspective of someone outside the direct issue, there is honest confusion which needs to be allowed to be expressed and questions asked before any possibility of understanding and acceptance can happen. On any subject, people need to be able to make mistakes, ask and probably say the wrong thing, before people can be come to the realisation that we can be wrong. Often about things we feel very stongly and passionately about. We need to be open to having these conversations, with ourselves, with our friends, our families, our communities and society. Well worth a listen and something I will listen to again, hopefully opening my own mind more in process.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Simon Genoe

    Thought provoking stuff

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    James O'Brien is a journalist and broadcaster. He has particularly come to prominence for his radio phone in show on LBC for which he has been labelled "the conscience of liberal Britain." I knew he had written this book but did not rush out to get it, because although I have enjoyed his phone in show, the title made me think he was going to use his experience to tell us how to be right about things. And the problem I have with that is that a radio phone in is always an unequal forum, and althou James O'Brien is a journalist and broadcaster. He has particularly come to prominence for his radio phone in show on LBC for which he has been labelled "the conscience of liberal Britain." I knew he had written this book but did not rush out to get it, because although I have enjoyed his phone in show, the title made me think he was going to use his experience to tell us how to be right about things. And the problem I have with that is that a radio phone in is always an unequal forum, and although he frequently eviscerates arguments from opponents of his positions, I felt that his observations might be coloured by the benefit of his unequal status and a general cult of personality. But then I saw the book in Foyles in London and read the blurb and the Foyles recommendation too, and I realised this book was not what I had expected at all. Instead this is a deeply personal look by the author at the art of self examination of our own views. He candidly and apologetically tells of some of his biggest errors and worst actions. He speaks of his own need for counselling, and most of all he tells us of times he has been forced to change his mind. Again and again. And that is what the book is about. It is about how it is not only allowed, but right that we should re-examine our settled positions, and be free to change our mind when someone else persuades us we are wrong. He points out that this is a sign of youthful thinking, which I think was spot on. And it is not limited to young people. It is a matter of mental fitness that we can be persuaded to change our opinion on a matter. And then he talks about trick issues such as the trans-sexual debate where he finds himself frustratingly conflicted (and thus villified by both sides) and uses that to argue for safe space to consider issues and the error in shouting down opposition. Quite right! This book was deeply thoughtful, very personal and surprisingly good as a result. I really liked this and have no hesitation in recommending it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    I binged this book in about a day, and it's definitely one of my new favorite books. I love reading books about the flaws in my thinking, and understanding the psychology behind this has helped save my life. I'm a recovering drug addict, and my big "Aha!" moment was when I realized that I wasn't the smartest person on earth and that I might just be wrong about the way I was living. This is why I love this book from James O'Brien. Most of the books like this (like the one I'm currently writing) e I binged this book in about a day, and it's definitely one of my new favorite books. I love reading books about the flaws in my thinking, and understanding the psychology behind this has helped save my life. I'm a recovering drug addict, and my big "Aha!" moment was when I realized that I wasn't the smartest person on earth and that I might just be wrong about the way I was living. This is why I love this book from James O'Brien. Most of the books like this (like the one I'm currently writing) explain the psychology behind different biases and heuristics, but this book caught me by surprise because it's about James reviewing how he was wrong about different topics like racism, mental health, obesity and much more.  This book was completely unique with the way it approached this subject, and it was extremely inspiring. Reading the book was almost like reading a philosophy book because James asks such great questions and comes from a place of curiosity. I truly hope more people read this book and are inspired to practice some intellectual humility. I know it inspired me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ribhu Agrawal

    Great book and very honest. As with the first book I particularly like the extracts of his radio show and discussions with listeners. These help shed light on topics with much more clarity as they provide real life view points. I think by highlighting where he was wrong in the past we can actually set a scene for open debate on important issues such as race, gender equality, press etc. The general principle of it being ok to change your opinion and grow is very important in this day and age where Great book and very honest. As with the first book I particularly like the extracts of his radio show and discussions with listeners. These help shed light on topics with much more clarity as they provide real life view points. I think by highlighting where he was wrong in the past we can actually set a scene for open debate on important issues such as race, gender equality, press etc. The general principle of it being ok to change your opinion and grow is very important in this day and age where staunchness in your belief is appreciated rather than the merits of the view itself. Didn't give it a 5 star as there were parts in the book I almost felt he was too apologist for prior views/comments and needed to make his point quicker (like he did in the 1st book and hence its 5 star view). Still a brilliant read and it's interesting to see the evolution of Liberal ideas and view points of great significance.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Goodridge

    A really honest book from James O’Brien. It’s fair to say that O’Brien is an intellectual idol of mine. However, if I had discovered him earlier in my life (as he describes in his book), I would’ve disliked him greatly. Some of his opinions and standpoints were grossly wrong, but he admits that in the book. It’s refreshing to see somebody analyse their old opinions and how they came to change their mind. His last book taught me not to stop at “what I think”, but to go further and explain “WHY I A really honest book from James O’Brien. It’s fair to say that O’Brien is an intellectual idol of mine. However, if I had discovered him earlier in my life (as he describes in his book), I would’ve disliked him greatly. Some of his opinions and standpoints were grossly wrong, but he admits that in the book. It’s refreshing to see somebody analyse their old opinions and how they came to change their mind. His last book taught me not to stop at “what I think”, but to go further and explain “WHY I think it”. This book provides another lesson: it’s okay to change your mind. It reminded me of a quote by economist John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stevie

    I very much enjoyed James’ first book, but struggled with this one. I thought parts of it were great and it was excellent to see a man being so open about therapy and his feelings. It lost me in the second half - he spent a lot of time listing all his previously awful opinions (and as I am not a radio listener this was the first time I heard them) which I found distasteful. Parts of this book were also clearly intended to be jabs at Piers Morgan and his ilk, which I found uninteresting to read - I very much enjoyed James’ first book, but struggled with this one. I thought parts of it were great and it was excellent to see a man being so open about therapy and his feelings. It lost me in the second half - he spent a lot of time listing all his previously awful opinions (and as I am not a radio listener this was the first time I heard them) which I found distasteful. Parts of this book were also clearly intended to be jabs at Piers Morgan and his ilk, which I found uninteresting to read - save that for twitter. James seems to think the best thing to be is honest, but I think sometimes it’s the ability to be quiet.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Koit

    I listen to Mr O’Brien often enough to know what he thinks about most topics. Therefore, I wasn’t really surprised by the discussions and viewpoints here—some of these I’ve heard live on air after all—nor by the general message that we are often wrong, and it takes a big heart (mind?) to acknowledge this. This difficulty in turn creates new problems because that acknowledgement is, often, so very difficult for us to make. The author had chosen his topics—marriage, racism, equality, weight issues— I listen to Mr O’Brien often enough to know what he thinks about most topics. Therefore, I wasn’t really surprised by the discussions and viewpoints here—some of these I’ve heard live on air after all—nor by the general message that we are often wrong, and it takes a big heart (mind?) to acknowledge this. This difficulty in turn creates new problems because that acknowledgement is, often, so very difficult for us to make. The author had chosen his topics—marriage, racism, equality, weight issues—quite carefully even though, originally, it looks as very much like a random list. These concern the broad themes in society which cause so much ruckus, but are often used as a distraction from the really important topical events. Yet, despite the claims that Mr O’Brien is now tries to err into any topic as carefully as possible or, rather, with due consideration to the other viewpoints, quite often his tone is overly bellicose. This means that his debate opponents don’t get the time they need to make a coherent argument. However, what makes for good radio does not make for as good a book which meant that I was rather relieved to see that there were only a few calls transcribed. What is left unacknowledged in those bellicose dialogues, after all, is the difficulty with which many would reach for the best words to explain themselves while the author himself is clearly trained in this (by his daily profession). This also means that the due consideration the author says he is trying to offer to his callers isn’t really there as often as it should be—perhaps another item for him to reconsider in the future. Yet, it was good to read what had changed Mr O’Brien’s mind about certain topics. These triggers won’t be the same for everyone, but I remember how I would have argued for certain policies in the past that would have no appeal for me now. However, knowing that I think something differently now makes it no easier to utter those words that everyone should say every now and then—and what the author’s thoughts consolidate around and help us become more familiar with—”I was wrong.” This review was originally posted on my blog.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Bates

    I thought this was good. Challenging and insightful and I learned quite a bit from it. It reads a bit like some newspapers columns stuck together, but is really worth that bit of excess. It made me rethink my various more robust views and find ways of accepting the views of others more easily.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    I was an occasional listener to James O’Brien during lockdown. He talked a lot of sense. Reading his book made me recognise why I think the way I do about certain things. And why I’m wrong. A very honest book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael White

    A must read! Such honesty and self analysis is rarely so well examined or approached with a wry sense of humour. Educationally illuminating too!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Scerfman (Saoirse)

    Excellent! Honest, engaging, thought provoking just fab.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Ellcock

    I was left a little unsure as to what O’Brien wanted this book to be. Is it a self-help book? A re-telling of some of the more memorable exchanges from his radio shows? The story of one liberal’s journey into even more liberal views? A thinly-veiled swipe at the shibboleths of his “opponents”? It’s not a bad book, per se, but it’s a little directionless in places.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paulinlong

    A really honest, thoughtful book which made me think about opinions I hold and why I hold them. Also, what I do to defend them, when maybe I shouldn’t. Well worth reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gildea

    As a keen enjoyer of James O’Brien’s previous book ‘How To Be Right’, it was unlikely that outside of a shift in personality for either of us, I would find this book anything short of interesting. The fact that it challenged me and the way I have gone about certain interactions in my professional and personal life was a troublesome, but ultimately excellent bonus. Being self aware is one of the most important attributes - and especially so in a climate where divisions run deep across politics, s As a keen enjoyer of James O’Brien’s previous book ‘How To Be Right’, it was unlikely that outside of a shift in personality for either of us, I would find this book anything short of interesting. The fact that it challenged me and the way I have gone about certain interactions in my professional and personal life was a troublesome, but ultimately excellent bonus. Being self aware is one of the most important attributes - and especially so in a climate where divisions run deep across politics, sports, even tribal workplace relationships! Knowing your enemy, so to speak, and understanding different viewpoints, and acknowledging that opposition doesn’t (and shouldn’t in most cases) disparage friendships, is something lost on many of us. And being able to admit that sometimes, you, or your beliefs may not be right, is a relief, even though it may seem impossible at first. With his trademark repertoire of anecdotes from his radio show to back his many misgivings, and evolving in opinion, that rather than showing something indecisive, portrays a human who when confronted with evidence head on, can acknowledge and adjust his viewpoint. This is what we all strive for, and would make the world far more comfortable with itself. What’s right once, isn’t always, and what’s right next, won’t be forever. If you’re aware of James and his radio show, no doubt you’ll enjoy this as much as his other work. If you despise him, you won’t like it. But that shouldn’t put you off finding out what he has to say, and discovering how you too can not be wrong.

  23. 5 out of 5

    ciararecommends

    A great follow-on from How to be Right, a little more personal but just as hilarious and insightful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    James O'Brien's book got off to a great start for me, because the opening paragraph expresses my feelings exactly. "There is no point in having a mind if you never change it. We should change our minds when we realise we are wrong. We realise we are wrong - or at least that we are not necessarily right - after being exposed to superior science or stronger arguments, experiences and evidence that refute our previous position. In short, by listening, thinking and learning. There should be no shame James O'Brien's book got off to a great start for me, because the opening paragraph expresses my feelings exactly. "There is no point in having a mind if you never change it. We should change our minds when we realise we are wrong. We realise we are wrong - or at least that we are not necessarily right - after being exposed to superior science or stronger arguments, experiences and evidence that refute our previous position. In short, by listening, thinking and learning. There should be no shame in admitting to being wrong. Instead, we should be applauded for our honesty, humility and emotional intelligence." I could not agree more with this, and I do feel that now, perhaps more than ever, many people find it almost impossible to admit they may have held a mistaken view or made a misjudgement, instead becoming ever more entrenched in and defensive of their position, seeing those on the other side as the enemy. (I've often felt for instance that it's completely pointless to argue with people on the internet as they very rarely ever change their minds, instead going to great lengths and expending enormous time and energy to "prove" that they are right and somebody else is wrong, even over what seem like very insignificant issues.) I like the quote "The older I get, the more convinced I become that you can't argue anyone into changing their mind, you can simply question them into a place where they will be able to do it for themselves". I think that's very true, though hard to remember at times. Anyway, in his book James discusses various areas in which he's come to realise he was in fact wrong, from that old favourite "it never did me any harm" (being hit as a child), to police stop and search practices, to an unreasonable prejudice against people with tattoos. This is often intensely personal, as when he talks about his experiences at boarding school (I had something in my eye when reading the unsent letter to his old prep school headmaster.) I really admired his openness and honesty in examining where his assumptions have come from and why they might be - and sometimes have been, publicly and embarrassingly - wrong. That can't be easy to do. The chapter on how, early in his radio career, he devoted much airtime to mocking and bullying overweight people - dehumanising them, basically - makes particularly uncomfortable reading, and yes it is as bad as it sounds, and yes he does now feel suitably bad about it. Throughout, he emphasises the importance of a willingness to listen to and learn from other people's lived experiences as evidence for changing your mind, and I really enjoyed the extracts from exchanges with radio phone-in callers. (Bravo, Emma, Lauren and Tony!) I will admit my heart sank a little when I came to the chapter on trans issues, not from concern about what James might have to say on the matter but purely because the subject has become so fraught and highly charged that, to be honest, I'm scared to go anywhere near it. I've seen enough vitriol on Twitter to put me off ever expressing a thought on the subject, even if I could confidently formulate one beyond the obvious - that everyone should be respected and equal. (James echoes this feeling, stating that "I don't ever want to be a person who stops thinking because they are cowed by criticism, and I think I have come closer to that place with transgenderism than with any other subject.") I thoroughly enjoyed How Not to be Wrong. James writes in such an engaging and readable way, and is so honest about his own faults, and so clear-sighted about the way things are, that it's a thought-provoking pleasure to read from start to finish.

  25. 4 out of 5

    junkyard

    I WAS SO MUCH OLDER THEN, I’M YOUNGER THAN THAT NOW. The author starts off with a W B Yeats quote, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”( Could this apply to Trump supporters I wonder? ) He has the analogy of “footballification” where we are split into 2 tribes where we are totally biased. This is seen where no common ground is found and disagreement turns to enemy and even hatred. The author has his own program on radio where he invites people to phone I WAS SO MUCH OLDER THEN, I’M YOUNGER THAN THAT NOW. The author starts off with a W B Yeats quote, “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”( Could this apply to Trump supporters I wonder? ) He has the analogy of “footballification” where we are split into 2 tribes where we are totally biased. This is seen where no common ground is found and disagreement turns to enemy and even hatred. The author has his own program on radio where he invites people to phone in on controversial subjects. He then does a Socrates on them to show how pathetic their logic and common-sense is. It makes for great radio but a family crisis altered his thinking and attitude to his job. He clarifies that due to his upbringing he realized that he was totally unable to deal with the crisis. He feared for his family and his way of life. He finished up in therapy in desperation to help solve this massive problem. A year previously he would have said “man up for God’s sake, don’t be such a wimp”. He thought that therapists were for wimps until he found out that it changed him into a much better person rather than the person he was and didn’t want to be. The author talks about what he went through in school after the therapist asked him to talk to his 10 year old self. He came to realize that he’d grown a “survival personality” to deny the pain. “We became what we needed to be and abandoned our authentic selves”. He goes on to say that “it was perfectly suited to running an empire” but totally unsuited to function fully in today’s society. He goes on to explain how his ideas changed on many issues from: carrying knifes to Britain being racist to obesity to tattoos. J O’B quotes direct discussions he’s had on his program where people had made him feel a fool for holding positions that he thought were set in stone. He also quotes discussions where the opposite applies too. The author used to be on the BBC and was happy there until Boris and Trump came to power. The impartiality there made him leave; “the abject madness of Brexit and the ensuing march to power of these 2 men, I felt an urgent duty to shout the truth about those 2 from the rooftops”. He gives plenty of personal examples to give greater flavour to his arguments, eg. “I voted for Boris to be mayor of London in 2008….i regret it”. The argument on a TV panel he had with Alastair Campbell over press regulation. He realizes now that he was totally wrong and now takes Campbell’s position. “I often describe the victims of footballification as having their tribal scarves tied so tightly around their throats that they impede the flow of oxygen to their brains.” The transformation of the author due to the massive personal problem he had is moving in parts. I get the impression he would not have changed but for the crisis and finding the right therapist. It is brave for him to put on paper how wrong he was on so many things, but how he has changed and why. It’s well worth a read to understand how someone who thought he had everything going for him but then had a “penny-drop moment” and realized he didn’t.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jimi'O

    Would absolutely NOT recommend the book I did not find it intelligent. Infact the first 3 chapters and other places were instinctually-eye-rollingly bad and his writing style is what some would call 'verbal diarrhoea'. The sort of style you get when having a night in with the Lambrini. This improved in the final chapter however I will add – I'm not saying that about the content. Most of the arguments are trendy ones, such as 'how to punish children', 'white priveldge' and 'vegetarianism'. Some of Would absolutely NOT recommend the book I did not find it intelligent. Infact the first 3 chapters and other places were instinctually-eye-rollingly bad and his writing style is what some would call 'verbal diarrhoea'. The sort of style you get when having a night in with the Lambrini. This improved in the final chapter however I will add – I'm not saying that about the content. Most of the arguments are trendy ones, such as 'how to punish children', 'white priveldge' and 'vegetarianism'. Some of the arguments were ok, like the punishing of children, it seems the author had a lot of quotes for that, however , often the sides are ill-represented , probably to allow the author to win his argument easily. What's more, as most (bad) talk show hosts do, they tend to choose a side(the winning one). Which demonstrates that this Author is Parading to the crowd. Further still, If you read the book, you can see he is dressing himself up as a changed man, compassionate and appreciative of the poor and being a good father figure to his daughter, as well as never forgetting or disrespecting his parents in his perfect family entity. It is all so contrived and I don't believe a bit of it. It is almost bizarre when he describes himself as a war like alpha male and suggests he had to change to be the compassionate person he is – again he is trying to dress himself up – parading to the crowd*AGAIN* – it is PATHETIC. It is awful how he describes this 'pin drop' moment when describing this woman in discussion, she made a point to make someone feel uncomfortable and have to pause. I agree that maybe they need to stop talking rubbish - but a good discussion, each of the parties should know what they are talking about... This demonstrates its just a game to riposte your opponent, some kind of gladiatorial-verbal-finesse. In the end, the aggressive person wins, and no one knows any better... I find this utterly PATHETIC. And I will add this certainly adds colour to the author and what interests him. The worst part of the book infact -given he is an upper class public school boy from a boarding school - is reading his letter that he wrote to his school masters. Just name calling. Verbal diarrhoea postive. Its so bad... not bad, but BAAAAAAAAAAADDDDD – I had to *breath* slowly - a lot- though these chapters to get through(1-2)... I don't want to sound like a biggot in talking about snowflakes articles and saying books that cover their subjects are guttural, but I just want to criticise publications that use them and *do not properly analyse it*, otherwise it just creates mis-information – It's no news then that a media veteran creates mis-information... Yes James O'Brian is a media veteran talk show host – this book is almost like a portfolio or CV for him – a comment on the back of the book suggests its like a memoir - which is accurate. Finally I will add how amusing it is how the author mentions how his friend Alastair Campbell was right about media regulation, which an interesting as a discussion. However, it seems like he did not state his argument(or most parts). This along with Mr Campbell lies about the book on the back cover is proof that this is just a bit of 'you scratch my back and I will yours'. Its obvious too, the book is not “smart, analytical, self aware and important” in any sense. Commentary on 'footballism' or tribal treatment of beliefs in society was interesting though.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This review is available along with many others on my blog: https://livemanylives.wordpress.com/ “Opinions are made to be changed – or how is truth to be got at?” - Lord Byron James O’Brien has made a career of being forcefully right on his radio show and exposing the holes in the often firmly held beliefs of people phoning in. In this latest book, however, he turns his interrogative skills onto himself and his own opinions and in doing so presents something that is universally helpful. The state This review is available along with many others on my blog: https://livemanylives.wordpress.com/ “Opinions are made to be changed – or how is truth to be got at?” - Lord Byron James O’Brien has made a career of being forcefully right on his radio show and exposing the holes in the often firmly held beliefs of people phoning in. In this latest book, however, he turns his interrogative skills onto himself and his own opinions and in doing so presents something that is universally helpful. The state of debate in this country is appalling and much of that is because everyone who engages in it is encouraged to be absolutely certain of all of their thoughts and to wage a furious war against anything different. There is no space for listening, no will to understand another perspective and no reward for compromise and collaboration. As a result, we are operating at extremes of opinion, which in turn have multifariously divided us as a nation. O’Brien looks back at his life and the archives of his radio show to discuss a number of key topics on which he has changed his mind. This covers his family life, growing up adopted in a very loving environment, attending a fee-paying school, because his journalist dad had seen how it opens doors and wanted those that were closed in his own career opened for his son, and also a range of engaging guests to his show, who have managed to break through his outer crust of self-defence to influence his thinking. The book is engaging with its accessible style and use of transcripts from phone-in conversations to illustrate his points and endearing as we find out something about the real person behind the confrontational radio persona. It is also revelatory because as each chapter digs deeper into the different perspectives on a significant topic in our current debate, we have to look in the mirror ourselves and face up to our own prejudices, biases and strongly held opinions. The chapter entitled Trans was particularly moving, because it seems to be a perfect example of two sides to a debate that individually have much merit and sympathy, but in which there is no space at all to come together, whether you are involved personally in it or just keen to learn more and understand it. In the middle though are real people trying to cope with real, in some cases life-threatening, issues who are suffering even more pain. How Not To Be Wrong could be used in schools as a guide to students on how to hold, discuss, understand and develop opinions, but could perhaps more urgently also be pressed upon sitting politicians, talk show hosts and participants and indeed anyone who holds a social media account. It is a sad reflection on us all that we have come to this, but we all need to be retrained in the basics of debate and national conversation, because the further we go down our current path of celebrating ignorance, bigotry and self-aggrandisement the worse things will get.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael May

    Honesty that Challenges James O'Brien is a UK radio presenter who divides opinion. His latest book "How Not to be Wrong" is excellent. His willingness to admit mistakes and to change his mind while at no stage letting lazy thinking off the hook is what riles so many others. Interestingly, he takes this approach to his own opinions, something that is so difficult to do. I could quote much from his book, but share just a few headline quotes... "There should be no shame in admitting to be wrong." "Fre Honesty that Challenges James O'Brien is a UK radio presenter who divides opinion. His latest book "How Not to be Wrong" is excellent. His willingness to admit mistakes and to change his mind while at no stage letting lazy thinking off the hook is what riles so many others. Interestingly, he takes this approach to his own opinions, something that is so difficult to do. I could quote much from his book, but share just a few headline quotes... "There should be no shame in admitting to be wrong." "Freedom of speech is not...the same as freedom from scrutiny." "Experiences are worth a million times more than opinions when we come to assess what is 'right' and what is 'wrong'." "The retort of 'All Lives Matter' is duplicitous to the point of absurdity. Black Lives Matter is already a call for 'all lives' to 'matter' as much as each other - because currently they clearly don't." But, for me, one of the best lines comes from one of the callers from one of his radio shows...."When you have privilege, equality feels like oppression." It is hard to give up what you have and feel you deserve in the name of giving others equality.... "The older I get, the more convinced I become that you can’t argue anyone into changing their mind, you can simply question them into a place where they will be able to do it for themselves.” “It took me years to realise that most important [thing] is not how you speak but how you listen.” These few extracts cannot do justice to a book that leaves the reader (who is willing to feel challenged) with a realisation of how often our certainty is indefensible when challenged and based upon ‘things we have heard or read’- and how easily we allow our unconscious bias to take this all as reaffirming fact. Our response to such challenge is at best defensive and often involves outrage and counter-attack. An uncomfortably rewarding read. I hope I will be less certain, slower to ignore the experiences of others while never losing my ability to discern dishonesty, disingenuousness and those who seek to stir up hate, division and rejection in ways that allowed six million Jews to perish in extermination camps near unconcerned towns and led to the death of George Floyd in an everyday city street....

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    There is a lot packed into this very readable book. Mr O’Brien considers why we stick to opinions without evidence and why we are so loathe to change our minds or admit we are wrong. The author shows how intelligence almost demands an ability to rethink our position in the face of contrary evidence. He gives examples of conversations from his radio phone in - and they act brilliantly to describe and illustrate the points. I found myself wanting to listen to his programme and I dislike radio phon There is a lot packed into this very readable book. Mr O’Brien considers why we stick to opinions without evidence and why we are so loathe to change our minds or admit we are wrong. The author shows how intelligence almost demands an ability to rethink our position in the face of contrary evidence. He gives examples of conversations from his radio phone in - and they act brilliantly to describe and illustrate the points. I found myself wanting to listen to his programme and I dislike radio phone ins for the reasons Mr O’Brien describes. A few quotes to explain:- “My own answer, for now, is to prescribe the treatment that worked for me: facts, evidence, other people’s lived experiences. Look, listen, learn, and then strain to help other people do the same.” “When I find myself or encounter others holding potentially unpleasant or unhealthy positions, I try to ask three questions: ‘What are you afraid of?’ “What are you really angry about?’ “How would you feel if the roles were reversed?’” “Next time you catch yourself criticising or mocking someone for some aspect of their existence over which they have little or no control, try asking yourself why you care about it. I never cease to be stunned by how often, when I try this simple exercise, I turn out to have no answer at all.” There is a lot going on here and I found it fascinating - when arguing with a family member about politics (we are polar opposites and I usually get quite upset) I backed off, thinking why does it matter to me when I know you won’t change your mind. Let’s just change the subject. There is a point here about how trying to point out an opposite view can be seen as trying to stop someone speaking their view and this is not the case. With the vitriol on social media and the dangerous rhetoric from the US President, it is important that we learn to define truth and understand why others hold the views they do. But it is more important that we listen to the voices of those who know what they are talking about and stop over shouting everyone we disagree with. Just maybe they have a truth we need to hear. I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert Cain

    British commentator James O’Brien is currently one of the leading broadcasters in the nation with over 1.2 million weekly listeners. With “How Not To Be Wrong”, he goes in the opposite direction, turning the mirror towards himself and looking back on his own prejudices and contentious attitudes. In doing so, he makes the case for having a rethink and as the title suggests, it’s difficult to admit you were wrong; the writer does so many times here. The book is very much a response to “How to be Ri British commentator James O’Brien is currently one of the leading broadcasters in the nation with over 1.2 million weekly listeners. With “How Not To Be Wrong”, he goes in the opposite direction, turning the mirror towards himself and looking back on his own prejudices and contentious attitudes. In doing so, he makes the case for having a rethink and as the title suggests, it’s difficult to admit you were wrong; the writer does so many times here. The book is very much a response to “How to be Right”; which focused mainly on talking to individuals with questionable takes on modern issues. O’Brien’s conversations with callers have often proven controversial and “How Not To Be Wrong” covers many topics that bring many an individual to anger and frustration in UK society. This includes racism, fat-shaming, transphobia and tattoos among others; the ethics of debating, ingrained attitudes and how they can shift over time form the backbone of the book. What makes this book so engaging is how it interweaves transcripts from the author’s on-air calls with his lived experiences, creating an emphatic and self-reflective tone. Sometimes, the changes to James’s opinions happened gradually and at other times it took little more than a simple message or email to cause him to reconsider. Across every page, the author delivers an honest look at his views, contrasts them with the state of society and never once claims superiority over others. Recommended? YES: In an age of seemingly endless anger and bitterness, James O’Brien provides a much-needed call to consider your own perspective and not be afraid to rethink it. It’s something we can all relate to; I myself have had some very iffy moments when being politically militant since 2016 and have since learned to temper my internal outrage. It serves an excellent complement to his previous release “How to be Right” while also serving a poignant glimpse into the author’s own life and journey. On occasion some of the societal discussions can get more than a bit complicated, but once you wrap your head around them, it’s a deeply personal read.

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